Cut the stigma attached to domestic abuse, writes Sam Billingham

Many victims of domestic abuse suffer in silence putting on a brave face to the outside world that everything behind closed doors is fine.

Sam Billingham
Sam Billingham

Domestic abuse is an epidemic that has devastating impacts, affecting one in four women and one in six men and two women in England and Wales are killed by a partner or former partner.

The onus is always put on the victim with the most common question being, why didn’t you just leave.

This very question implies that domestic abuse “isn’t that bad”, it minimises the abuse and violence that the victim endures every day yet it also justifies the perpetrators actions.

Stigma, where domestic abuse is concerned, is dangerous. Unfortunately, we are still at the stage in society where people believe that domestic abuse is about a perpetrator being angry, they shout and slap their partner and that’s that – which is why people often say, if my partner ever hit me I would just leave.

Domestic abuse is about power and control; control starts long before (if at all) the physical abuse. When we focus on physical abuse we take our eye off the bigger picture of what domestic abuse actually is.

Isolation is a key ingredient in any abusive relationship, it can often happen at the honeymoon period of the relationship when everything is new and exciting, where the perpetrator persuades their partner not to see their family or friends that night and before long, that night has turned into months. The control has taken them away from their support network.

There are so many different tactics that a perpetrator uses against their partner and they don’t always include physical abuse.

Gas lighting is a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality

* They tell blatant lies

* They deny what they have said/done

* They use what is dear to you as ammunition

* They wear you down

* Their actions do not match their words

Stonewalling is a persistent refusal to communicate or to express emotions . The silent treatment, also known as stonewalling, is when a "listener withdraws from an interaction, refusing to participate or engage, essentially becoming unresponsive".

It’s used to control and punish.

Many victims of domestic abuse don’t know they are a victim until it’s too late because they don’t always recognise the signs that aren’t there. Some victims often say, I’m not being abused because I’m not physically hurt.

Domestic violence is a pattern of behaviour in which one exerts power and control over another individual; it is not about losing control but being in control. A perpetrator will mould and manipulate their partner into someone they can easily control, from what they wear to who they speak to.

It is everyone’s duty to learn about the cycle of domestic abuse and what the early warning signs are, that’s the best way we can support any victim of domestic abuse.

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